Did you know that bread machines can make jam? Look at the picture of my ancient bread machine keypad. Way down at the bottom, #11, is "Jam." My co-teacher noticed this first on her bread machine (almost as ancient) last year. Not only that, but her instruction manual actually had a recipe for strawberry jam in it. You can see where this is going.
So...yes, we make strawberry jam with 2-year-old children. It's fun. They get to cut with plastic knives.You can easily find a recipe on the internet, and most of them only have strawberries, pectin, sugar, and lemon juice in them. Here's what we've learned the last two times we've done this.
- Wash the strawberries and cut off the tops before the kids come to school.
- Let them cut the strawberries as best they can. There will be a lot of mushing. This is ok, it's all going to get mushed anyway.
- If you use packaged lemon juice, DO NOT let anyone squeeze it directly into the machine. Measure it into a cup first. Go ahead and laugh, but I bet you know why I say this!
- Put the bread machine on the floor so that kids can look inside while it's mixing. It will heat up at some point, but the beginning of the cycle always involves mixing. It's also a good way to practice approaching appliances slowly to feel how hot they are before touching.
- On that last point, you might want to do a test to see how hot your bread machine will get on the outside. Neither of ours gets terribly hot, so even if someone touched them without going slowly there wouldn't be any burns. I've seen other machines that do get very hot. That's not a good choice for school.
One downside of the whole jam-making thing is that the jam has to refrigerate to be completely set. Some of the younger ones may not remember that you even made jam if a few days go by between when you make it and when you eat it. If your class can visit the refrigerator when you put it there and when you get it, all the better.
Oh, and while you're enjoying your jam, why not read Jamberry, by Bruce Degen? Sometimes the twos will only pay attention to the words in a book while they're eating, so what a perfect opportunity.
What do you eat your jam on? That's another post for another day. But please let them use knives to spread their own jam!